Chris Wyatt, Shizuoka, Japan October 4th, 2019
It’s been two days and we have all had some time to think about it. But even 48 hours later all I can say is wow! The USA Eagles gave quite a performance two days ago at the fabulous Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, frustrating a bewildered France who no doubt expected to roll up the tries in an easy win. Have the Eagles arrived? Not quite, but under Gary Gold this bunch is closer than any American side has ever been. The final score at 33-9 is not at all indicative of the game we watched on the pitch. France got a bonus point win, but they also got quite a fright too.
For 65 minutes les Bleus plunged into the Eagles’ line over and over, and far more often than not, the Americans proved stout in defense. The first half ended with the French leading just 12-6. While not alarming, the large contingent of France fans were nonetheless a little apprehensive. As the Eagles tenaciously held on after the break, bewildered France fans began jeering at the officials and questioning every non call or penalty awarded to the U.S. side. Many must have begun to wonder what was going on. First it took a missed penalty to escape from defeat at the hands of the Pumas. Then what was supposed to be a cake walk against the Americans was proving anything but. You could see the trepidation on their faces as A.J. McGinty slotted thru a penalty and closed the margin to 12-9 at 64 minutes.
But French fans need not have panicked. The early rain, high humidity and all that work for 65 minutes on defense finally wore the Americans down. While both sides were clearly knackered at the halftime break, no one crossed the try line in the second half until the 66th minute when the Americans finally broke and France romped to three tries in just 12 minutes. That was understandable but unfortunate. The final score does not reflect the mammoth effort the Eagles put into this game. They deserved a much better box score.
Two games into the Rugby World Cup and the USA has lost two games. But they stood tall against England and had the edge against France for 65 minutes, both traditional rugby powerhouses and top ten ranked teams. In defeat the Eagles accomplished far more than folks reasonably expected of them. They scored a try against Eddie Jones’ mighty England and served notice in the France game that a rising rugby power is indeed up to the task of standing tall against the top tier powerhouses.
In rugby you take your victories where you can get them. In Japan, thus far, the USA Eagles are punching above their weight and the effort is inspiring. With two remaining games against Argentina and Tonga, don’t be surprised if they come out of Japan with two wins.
As a fan and USA supporter, this was one of the most thrilling Eagles games I’ve ever watched. Here were the Eagles on the world stage and holding their own. This was not an Argentine XV’s side or “Scotland’s B side” on the pitch. This was France, a perennial top five team. If Gary Gold can keep up this level and improve, USA rugby will finally begin to become a rugby nation to be reckoned with and not dismissed out of hand by traditional rugby powers.
Chris Wyatt Photos
2019 Rugby World Cup articles by Chris Wyatt for DJCoil Rugby include:
- Different Cultures, Different Approaches
- Kumagaya Seals the Deal as “Rugby Town Japan
- Japanese Rugby Fans Making Rugby World Cup Wonderful
- Ireland dispense with Scotland with 27-3 bonus point victory in Yokohama
- The Real Heroes of Rugby World Cup
Chris Wyatt is a guest journalist for DJCoil Rugby who is attending the 2019 Rugby World Cup. His periodic articles will provide another perspective for matches attended.